Military Connection: Next Generation of USMC Drones

Marine Corps Drones

By Debbie Gregory.

As the use of mechanized warfare continues to evolve, the United States Marine Corps is making a push for its next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be more versatile. One of the features that the U.S.M.C. wants for all of its UAVs, usually referred to as drones, is the capability to be launched and operated from Navy vessels.

Many civilians may not know that the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy.Historically, marines (predating, and including early U.S.M.C.) were sea-going infantry, often responsible for ship-to-ship combat in the days when ships would board each other. Marines have also traditionally been used as expeditionary forces, brought across bodies of water onboard naval vessels and disembarked to the shore. Today’s Devil Dogs of the U.S.M.C have many more areas of responsibility than their predecessors, but they still embark on U.S. Navy ships, and are used as expeditionary forces.

Keeping with their amphibious warfare role, it only makes sense that, like their Marines, the Corps’ equipment be capable of ship-to-shore operations. The next generation of U.S.M.C. drones will range in size from hand-launched model-airplane sized to UAVs that are the size of manned aircraft. The drones will be used for surveillance, attack missions and logistic support. The Corps is even looking to use some for medical evacuation of wounded Marines.

Previous generations of Marine UAVs were almost solely land based. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine drones mostly utilized long runways on land-based airstrips. The Corps’ leadership is reluctant to rely on those types of resources being readily available for any possible needs in the future. A self-reliant Marine Corps with ship-borne troops and ship-borne UAVs is much better equipped for any challenge.

The Marine Corps also wants their new drones to come equipped with control settings that would allow for a single control station to pilot any of the Corps’ drones. They are also in the process of developing unmanned ground vehicles like the Internally Transportable Vehicle, which was designed to fit inside an MV-22 Osprey.

The Navy and the Coast Guard have also begun efforts to develop their next generation of drones that are suitable for ships. Most notably is the Navy’s X-47, which has already conducted safe takeoffs and landings from aircraft carriers, both solo and with other manned aircraft on deck.

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Military Connection: Next Generation of USMC Drones: By Debbie Gregory